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Castle Archdale, Northern Ireland Coastal Command

The Sunderland

Home | RAF Coastal Command | RAF 201 Squadron | RAF 280 Squadron | The RCAF | RCAF 422 Squadron | RCAF 423 Squadron | No12 (Operational) Flying Instructors School St. Angelo | No 4 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit | Beginning | WW 2 Castle Archdale. | 201 Faces | 280 Faces | 422 Faces | 423 Faces | Archdale Faces /Places /Photos | 422 Captains & Crews | 423 Captains & Crews | 201/422/423 SQN Crests | Hard Times | Castle Archdale Successes | The Sunderland | Amazing Coastal Command Videos | The Donegal Corridor | Wartime Documents | ORB'S and Squadron Reports | Killed In Action | 423 Move From Castle 1945 | 423 Squadron Now | Archdale Hangar 2010 | Final Flight | Guestbook | RCAF 446 SAM Squadron (Post WW2) | Robert "Bob" Alexander Smith Flight Sergeant (W.Op./Air Gnr.) 226 Squadron R.A.F. | Links To Other WW2 Related Sites | Contact Me


Oil painting signed by McMartin, painted in 1949.
Sunderland AB-A DD862
Pilot  F.G. "Jerry" Fellows


This brass Sunderland was made by the hands of F.G. Fellows.



Front and back of photo. Text by F.G. Fellows.
The Sunderland has started the outer engines to get going as the wake shows , the turret is still retracted and the crew can be seen in the open nose section.



Front and back of photo taken from the Sunderland of F/Lt Fellows.


This photo was colored in by Sam Taylor of 423 squadron. It is from his collection.


Here is an assortment of photos of Sunderlands from Castle Archdale. If you can identify any of the aircraft in the photos, please contact me and I will list the related info.
RCAF Anti-Submarine Squadrons Overseas
Created in 1942, No 422 and No 423 Squadrons flew aboard Short Sunderland flying boats. Those were heavy, four-engine aircraft with less autonomy and range than Catalinas; they had been originally designed for passenger service. The hull was actually so huge that it could be fitted with two decks. On the lower deck a small kitchen equipped with an oven provided the crew with a wartime luxury: coffee and hot meals.
Given the defensive nature of their missions, most Coastal Command squadrons had to fly lengthy patrols without even a glimpse of the enemy. Bad weather was actually a worse threat. Patrols followed one another and men had to fight boredom that would make them less vigilant. Encounters with the enemy may have been rare but they certainly were not without danger. U-boats were tough targets for planes to fire at, and one had to get really close to get a hit. With its machine-guns and anti-aircraft 20-mm guns, a U-boat could certainly fire back in a sustained manner (Type IX U-boats even had an additional 37-mm gun). Risks were high and so were losses in lives and material.
An average of 2,000 to 3,000 Canadians served with the Coastal Command during the war’s last two years. In April 1944 the aircrews, ground personnel and administrative support personnel of all RCAF squadrons amounted to 2,065 men; 919 more Canadians were with various RAF units


Sunderland AB-A DD862
Pilot F/L F.G Fellows 423 squadron
Painting by Walt Drohan R.C.A.



A 423 Sunderland about to get up "on the step" on the run down the Lough - the throttles would be full up to the stops , holding nothing back as every ounce of power that could be produced was needed to get "unstuck".


Flight Engineers Station


Interior Rear to Front


Navigators Table


Sleeping Quarters


Sunderland Bombsight


Sunderland Captains Instrument Panel




Another galley photo


Q ML742 Icebound Jan Feb 1945


Trio GR5s Pembrokeshire Coast


A 201 Sunderland awaiting an engine change , circa early 1942.


W 201 October 1941


A 201 Sunderland in early 1942 beside the tree lined slipway.
The base was in a constant state of evolution from the day it opened in Feb. 1941


201 squadron Sunderland,Castle Archdale.


The production line at Shorts, Belfast


The production line at Shorts, Belfast


The production line at Shorts, Belfast

A Short Sunderland of No 422 Squadron landing at Castle Archdale


The interior of a Sunderland cockpit


Sunderland interior


To meet requirement R.2/33 of the Air Ministry for a general reconnaissance flying boat, Short developed the S.25 Sunderland from their famous S.23 "Empire" or "C-class" flying boat, the flagship of Imperial Airways. The S.25 first flew on 16 October 1937.

The Sunderland had a deep hull, and the wings were set high on the fuselage, to keep the engines and propellers away from the water spray. For the time, its size was very impressive. The hull had a single step, which served to break the suction of the water, and allow the flying boat to unstick. The characteristic blunt nose contained a two-gun turret, and the tail a four-gun turret. To correct a problem with the center of gravity, the wings were given a slight sweepback; the result was that the engines were slightly toed out. This cost some engine efficiency, but an advantage was that it improved controllability with one engine out. The stabilizing floats under the wing tips were attached by two struts and wire-bracing. On the water the aircraft was steered by canvas drogues, which were deployed through the galley windows.

The Sunderland was a pure flying boat, and if it had to be brought on shore special beaching wheels had to be fitted. Usually the Sunderlands were moored to a buoy. For this purpose, the front gun turret was rolled back and a chain was ran out. An anchor was on board, too. Daily maintenance was performed while the aircraft was moored. Supplies, fuel and ammunition were brought by boats, and some care was required to avoid damaging the hull. It was not uncommon for crews to live in their Sunderland between flights. If the aircraft was moored two men were required to be on board during the night, and during gales a pilot had to be on board because the engines were used to turn the aircraft in the wind. Of course the bilges had to be pumped out regularly, and for this both a manual pump and a pump driven by an Auxiliary Power Unit were installed.

The Short Sunderland was a long-range general reconnaisance and anti-submarine flying-boat and was a military variant of the famous "C" Class Empire boats. The Sunderland's strong defensive armament earned it the nickname "Flying Porcupine" from the Germans, and its remarkably sound design earned it a place in aviation history as one of the finest flying-boats ever built.


423 Squadron Sunderlands


Sunderlands on the maintance apron. the radar on the back and sides of the aircraft stand out well .
This photo would be dated after September 1944 , probably dates from Spring 45


The view from the co-pilot seat




The Sunderland Mk.I was powered by four Bristol Pegasus XXII air-cooled radial engines of 1010hp. The fuel for these engines was held in ten self-sealing fuel tanks in the wings, for a total of 2552 gallons (11600 liters). In addition to the guns in the nose and tail turret, the Mk.I had two guns in hatches on the upper aft fuselage. The Mk.II had slightly more powerful Pegasus XVIII engines with constant-speed airscrews, and late in its production run a dorsal gun turret was introduced, replacing the hatches. The Mk.II also carried ASV Mk.II radar . The Pegasus engines and the dorsal turret were retained by the Mk.III, which also had a more streamlined hull with a faired step. This reduced drag, but could cause porpoising during take-off and landing. The Mk.IV was redesigned for operations in the Pacific; it was later renamed Seaford. Only six Seafords were built before the project was cancelled.

The Mk.V had American Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90B engines of 1200hp. Both the Pegasus and the R-1830 were very reliable engines, but the R-1830s had fully-feathering propellers, and in combination with the additional power this significantly increased a chance of a Sunderland to stay airborne with one or two engines out. The Mk.V also had four fixed, forward-firing guns, and two hatches in the aft fuselage for additional guns. The late production Mk.IIIs and the Mk.Vs had centimetric ASV radar. When the war broke out, Coastal Command had 34 Sunderlands in service. Over 700 Sunderlands were built and they served until 1959: 90 Mk.Is, 43 Mk.IIs, 456 Mk.IIIs and 150 Mk.Vs.

The fuselage of the Sunderland was roomy enough to give the crew of ten or more men some comfort on their long patrol flights, which could last up to 13 hours. The front part of the fuselage was divided in two decks. The upper deck contained the cockpit with the two pilots, and the stations for the flight engineer, the wireless operator and the navigator. There was also a compartiment for flares, and positions for the gunners


Another view of Sunderlands in the maintance area.


Another view of the maintance area
Photo probably dates from late 1944 / spring of 1945 - the catalina belongs to 202 Squadron.

On the lower deck there was a bomb room, were bombs or depth charges were stored on movable racks, which were moved to under the wing before an attack. For this purpose there were large rectangular doors under the wings. There was a bomb-aiming position in the nose, below the turret. The bomb load was small for such a large aircraft, but its primary task was reconnaissance. The lower deck also had a wardroom, a galley with two primus stoves and an oven, two bunks for off-duty crewmembers, a flush lavatory, a wash basin, and a shaving mirror. Crews would often collect their own set of dishes and cooking utensils, add curtains to the small wardroom, and install luxuries like a portable radio.
The Sunderland was easy and pleasant to fly, but for long patrols the pilots had the benefit of an autopilot. Its cruising speed was about 225km/h and it usually flew patrols at low altitudes. The main task of many Sunderlands was tracking enemy shipping, flying long patrols over an empty sea. Some crews never saw an enemy in the entire war. The Sunderland also flew search-and-rescue missions. It has to be pointed out that normally, the Sunderland could not land to pick up survivors. Like other flying boats, it could land and take-off only from sheltered coastal waters. From 1942 onwards, landings in open sea were expressly forbidden, except in special circumstances and with permission.

U-boat patrols, carrying eight depth charges, were an important task of the Sunderlands. They patrolled the approaches, or flew convoy protection missions. The two were often combined, with the Sunderlands meeting the convoys at some distance in the ocean. When an U-boat was sighted, the Sunderlands tried to attack it before it submerged. Although described as "depth charges", its bombs were set to explode at a depth of 25 feet to 30 feet, effective enough against surfaced submarines. Late in the war, the submarines were well-armed with Flak and willing to fight it out, while zig-zagging on the surface. In response, the Sunderlands were fitted with four fixed, forward-firing guns, to silence the Flak. The confrontations were extremely dangerous for both the Sunderland and the U-boat. Sunderlands also attacked small surface ships.


Two Castle Archdale aircraft phoptographed over Biscay.


Another shot of a 423 Sundreland , again over Biscay - the rear turret has been turned to face the friendly aircraft.


The Sunderland was vulnerable to enemy fighters, because it was slow and operated out of the range of Allied fighters. However, the later Sunderlands were well-armed, with nose, dorsal and tail turrets, gun hatches in the aft fuselage, and often some additional guns added by the crews. Flying low above the waves to prevent attacks from below, a Sunderland was not an easy victim, and managed to defend itself very well. For example, in 2 June 1943 a Sunderland survived an attack by eight Ju 88s, shooting down three of them, although it was riddled with holes, lost an engine, and several crewmembers were wounded. Such exploits allegedly earned it the German nickname of "Fliegendes Stachelschwein" (Flying Porcupine), although this could also be attributed to the large array of radar antennas fitted to many Sunderlands.
Perhaps the greatest weakness of the Sunderland was that its range, while significant, was not long enough the close the "mid-Atlantic gap". Coastal Command had to wait for the Liberator to cover the entire Atlantic. But where the Sunderland could operate, it was very effective.


A Sunderland moving towards take off on Lough Erne , an engine failure would mean disaster - the aircraft was underpowered and a fully loaded aircraft left no margin for error or failure.

Short Sunderland “L” of 423 Squadron.

Short Sunderland “U” of 422 Squadron


Short Sunderland “U” of 422 Squadron


Underwing view of a Sunderland on the slipway at Archdale






A 423 Squadron Sunderland , engine fitters/ mechanics at work


The bomb rack when fully loaded and ready to be run out.
The charges were carried internally and when deployed would be run out from the fuselage to the wings side doors being openned in the hull to allow them out.
When deployed for action they would have been close to the hull , the point of no return for the aircraft , its crew and for the guys on the bandstand trying to shoot the aircraft down .


A view towards the tail section , the structure on which the tail was built can be seen in situ , just beyond it the rear turret and what on occasions must have been a really wonderful and at times peaceful view.


1940 Christmas meal on board


On the water.


Sunderland wreck Lismore

U-boats sunk by this aircraft:
27 U-boats lost to Sunderland aircraft. + means that the Sunderland shared the credit for the sinking.


Short "Sunderland" Flying Boat
* Multi-crew Long Range Reconnaissance
     Flying Boat
* Performance and Armament restricted
* Powered by 4 Bristol "Pegasus" Motors

Specifications of the Sunderland GR Mk.V

Four 1200hp (895kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90B engines
Wing span 34.38m, length 26.00m, height 10.52m, wing area 156.72m2.
Empty weight 16738kg, maximum take-off weight 29484kg.
Maximum speed 343km/h, ceiling 5455m.
Range 4330km with 757kg bombs.
Armament: ten .303 (7.7mm) guns, two 0.50 (12.7mm) guns, and up to 2250kg of bombs and depth charges.

 Last Patrol


Photos of what is know as the last flying Sunderland





Photo of Sunderland at  Imperial War Museum, Duxford.

Special thanks to:
 James Stewart     N.Ireland 
Joe O'Loughlin     N.Ireland
    Breege Mc Cusker  N.Ireland 
John Newall         Canada
                               Richard Lebek  Canada ( crew member U-672)
Norman Lebek   Canada
 Roland Berr      Germany
                                Harry Lorkin   U.K. (RAF 226 Squadron)          
     John Rogers          UK            
                                    N.Jack Logan       Canada   (RCAF 422 Squadron)
              Les and Maureen Ingram  Scotland
   Bill Barber            Canada    
  Robert Walsh        N.Ireland  
                         Capt. Jerry Mason USN (ret.)  Canada         
             Blake Wimperis      Canada              
                                   Robert Quirk     Canada                                          
                                    Norm Muffitt          Canada                                      
                         Lt/Col S. Beaton     Canada  (Camp Borden)
       Stephanie Pinder     USA            
    Alec (Johnny) Johnston    N.Z.
                 Stephen Kerr           N.Ireland             
                                   Reg Firby               Canada (RCAF 423 Squadron)
         Maurice Duffill         Australia     
                   John Hartshorn              UK                     
                                  Don Macfie      Canada ( RCAF 422/423 Squadron)
                               Frank Cauley   Canada  ( RCAF 422 Squadron)
                                Harold O'Brien  Canada  ( RCAF 423 Squadron)
                                   James Newall          UK        ( RAF 423 Squadron)
      Ian Meadows                    UK
                     Bill Baker                 Canada               
John Taylor      Canada
            Gordon Burke              Canada
          Carol Whittle                    U.K.

Last Update on Dec 07 , 2010